Whoever thought that walking, flesh-eating, pieces of meat could be so darn humorous!?! The Brits, that’s who!
Shaun (Simon Pegg) is your typical, 29-year-old Brit: He has a lousy job that nobody respects him at; he’s got a loser best friend named Ed (Nick Frost) who doesn’t clean up after himself and pisses off the other roommate; he’s having problems with his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) who just wants him to grow up and take charge for once; and his mum (Penelope Wilton)’s annual-visit is coming up, which he doesn’t mind showing up for, except that he hates his step-dad (Bill Nighy). And yet, as if his life couldn’t have gotten any worse or depressing enough, now human-beings are starting to keel over and become reanimated as zombies. No reason is given, but everybody is told to stay in their houses, lock all of the doors, and keep away from the zombies. However, Shaun and Ed do otherwise, and decide to fetch up all of their friends and family, go on down to the pub where they can stay safe, and also have a few pints and smokes as well. Sounds like the perfect plan, except they’re SO MANY ZOMBIES.
With The World’s End coming out this weekend, I thought it’d be best for me to not only catch back up on two of Edgar Wright’s movies that I haven’t seen in awhile, but review them and remind myself why I should be as hyped-up as everybody else in the world (especially the Brits) seems to be for the end with the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy. So, with all of that out of the way, why not go back to a day when nobody outside of America knew who the hell Simon Pegg or Bill Nighy were, and when every horror-comedy had to live up to An American Werewolf in London.
I almost want to say “the finer days”, but they really weren’t because this movie came around and shook things up like never before. And believe it or not, but the horror genre hasn’t been the same since. Screw the comedy aspect, this is a horror movie through-and-through. It’s just done by a bunch of Brits, so obviously it’s got to have wit and sly humor! Duh!
Anyway, this is probably the 5th viewing I’ve had of this flick and I have to say, I could go 5, 10, hell, even 20 more times of seeing this flick and never getting bored or tired of it! One of the main reasons behind that, and with all of Wright’s flicks, is that there is always something new or inventive to spot-out, especially when you’ve seen what goes down and know what happens. Sometimes the lines are so ironic and so full of foreshadowing, you’ll wonder how in the world it got past you originally, but such is the talent of Wright and Pegg. I mean, Christ, it only took me to my 3rd viewing until I realized that the whole “Queen, pool-stick fighting sequence” was all choreographed to go along with the song. Call me slow, call me an idiot, call me a Yankee, call me what you will; but it slid by me, and you’re only a bigger fool if you don’t admit to at least missing a few jokes here and there. Even some of the most loyal natives of Britain will find themselves scratching their heads at a few references and that’s the beauty behind it all.
It’s hilarious, but in a way that doesn’t take any cheap-shots. Yet, it’s still able to make you hold your gut with the most simplest forms of comedy like slapstick, like farting, and even the simple, dart-accidentally-sticks-into-someones’s-head joke. Even then, it’s still very, very funny and continued to make me laugh, while also holding my attention up on the screen, just hoping that I didn’t miss out on something that everybody else seemed to understand or be laughing at. So glad I didn’t see this in a movie theater with a bunch of smarter, more-sophisticated people, or else I would have felt like an even bigger idiot than I originally did when I first saw this. But, nonetheless, it’s still funny any way you write it, and that’s some big, effin’ credit to Pegg and Wright, aka, the two script-writers who understand the horror/zombie genre, yet, at the same time, know its limitations to where it can get serious, as well as jokey, but also be quite effective.
And that aspect behind this whole movie is what really separates it from the rest of the pack of horror-comedy flicks, and will continue to do so until a better one comes along down the drain-pipe (highly doubt it, at least not for awhile anyway). Everything starts off all goofy and witty, as if everybody involved knows how far-fetched it is for these things to actually be waking up from the dead, and start eating/infecting others, but with also a smudge of realism, where the people involved (you know, the ones not zombified) could easily be doing the same things in real life, had this actually ever happened. They realize that even though the rest of man-kind may be screwed for eternity, you might as well suck it up and have a good time while you still can; hence why they go to the pub, plan on getting blitzed, and enjoy whacking the shit out of zombies whenever one gets in their way. However, it also gets very serious by the end, and you realize that not only is this a satire of what we expect from a horror movie, but it’s also its own horror movie in and of itself. Wright and Pegg not only conquered the unimaginable by having us laugh our assess off by the way these characters interact and make jokes, but also by having us scare our pants off and actually care about these people once they begin to kick the bucket, and get eaten alive. It’s not just a funny-take on the horror genre, but it’s also a love-letter as well; one that makes me really glad to know that George A. Romero actually loved.
When you’ve made that man happy and give his seal of approval, then you know you’ve done something right in this world.
Hell, while I’m speaking about these characters, why not just talk about them right now, rather than wasting all of your time! It’s great to see how big Simon Pegg hit it after this movie, because not only is he very funny with his dry wit and humor, but he’s also very capable of coming off as the everyday, kind of loser that anybody could relate to or cheer on. Shaun is a bit deadbeat, but he’s a nice guy that you care for right away, and can’t wait to start seeing lay down the law when the dead begin to come alive. Same goes for Nick Frost as Ed, who keeps things light and punchy, whenever it seems to get all dark, cold, and surprisingly scary. Both have a lovable chemistry that makes me no less surprised knowing that it all came from their real life friendship. Good for those two, cause lord knows I would not be able to get along with any of my friends when I’m going all “method”.
And everybody else in this small, but effective cast is great, too. Kate Ashfield is a nice fit as Liz, Shaun’s present/ex-girlfriend that just wants him to grow up and stop being such a boob, which makes it easier for us to actually care about her, as well as them, since they not only seem good for each other, but may even make it out of this thing alive, together; Penelope Wilton is funny, but also quite endearing as Shaun’s clueless mum; Bill Nighy is a great fit as her husband/Shaun’s step-dad (and don’t get it mixed up!), proving to us that he’s got the comedic-chops to make this strict, weird dude work, but also give us a scene that touches us on more levels than we’d expect from a horror-comedy, especially because it happens so early in the game; Lucy Davis is fine and snappy as Liz’s roommate, who is also is a wannabe actress; and Dylan Moran is her sheepish, deuchey boyfriend who can’t stand up for himself, or anybody else for that matter, but seems to be taking Liz’s side the most out of everybody else’s. There’s plenty more cameos and hidden-roles here as well, but way too many to get into, just make sure you keep a close eye on some of these zombies; some may be famous faces, hidden underneath layers and layers of blood and gore, aka, make-up and prosthetic, but you catch my drift.
By the way, “Sorry”. Thought I’d leave it at that.
Consensus: Still funny, still smart, still quotable, and still able to be taken seriously enough as a full-on horror movie, regardless of how many times you see it, Shaun of the Dead did the horror genre a favor 9 years ago, woke everybody up out of their conventionality, made them work for their laughs and violence, and it hasn’t quite been the same since. Hallelujah!
9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!